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A History of the Arab Peoples [Hardcover]

Albert Hourani
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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March 1 1991
THIS EDITION HAS BEEN REPLACED BY A NEWER EDITION

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From Publishers Weekly

Hourani examines Arabic-speaking nations of the Islamic world from the seventh century to the present in a volume that spent 12 weeks on PW 's bestseller list and was a History Book Club main selection. Illustrated.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Hourani (Emeritus Fellow, St. Anthony's College, Oxford) is the author of several well-known books on the Middle East, including Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1983) and The Emergence of the Modern Middle East (Univ. of California Pr., 1980). This work, the first full-scale single-volume history of the Arabic-speaking peoples of the Islamic world in several decades, begins with Islam's rise in the 7th century and carries the rich and imposing story of Arab civilization to the late 1980s. In broad, sweeping strokes, Hourani moves easily from mosque to marketplace, from sultan to imam , from nomad to city-dweller, from Mohammed to Sadat. He dwells on the Ottoman Empire and on the European colonialism that followed, and concludes with a discussion of the modern resurgence of Islam that offers hope to thousands of Muslims and appears so threatening to Westerners. Written by a master historian, this work is now the definitive study of the Arab peoples. Recommended for interested laypersons and scholars; required reading for all specialists.
- Roger B. Beck, Eastern Illinois Univ., Charleston
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and concise Sept. 1 2003
Format:Paperback
This is a concise introduction to the history of the Arab people. It is fairly easy to read, yet comprehensive; interesting, yet dispassionate. Albert Hourani does an excellent job presenting an overall picture of Arab history and society. I particularly enjoyed how this book considers history as more than a mere collection of events and dates or the conquests of kings. Rather, for every historical period, it attempts to paint a picture of the lives of ordinary people. Thus we learn about education, religion, law, marriage, and other aspects of society. This is a major strength of the book.
Naturally, in a book about Arab history, a great deal of emphasis is put on Islamic religion, which is perhaps the most potent force shaping Arab history and culture. In a way therefore this book also offers an excellent introduction to Islam and Islamic history. Nevertheless, I would have liked to see more material about pre-Islamic times. Furthermore, while the title "Arab peoples" acknowledges the fact that most of the modern-day "Arabs" are descended from non-Arabs who at some point adopted Arab language and culture, this point is not made explicit in the text, and the pre-Arab history of these peoples is ignored. Having said that, I admit that it is impossible to include any more information about Arab history in the same number of pages (500), making this book a definite accomplishment. It is an excellent and readable introduction to Arab history, and a lead to other more specialized books (listed in the 27-page bibliography). The index alone reads like a who's who in Arab history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only book with such a broad scope. Aug. 15 2003
By A. Dodd
Format:Paperback
To those who say this is a boring book, or there isn't any history I laugh. This is the most complete chronicle of Arab History to date. Boring? yes if you're used to reading your history in the tabloids. The book covers thirteen centuries of history in 458 pages. It starts in the seventh century, introducing the Arab world at its first critical turning point: the coming of the Prophet Muhammad. Before the Prophet the people lived in a state of jahiliyya (or ignorance of religious truth).
After giving a good background on the Prophet the book moves swiftly to describe the Arab world after his death. He does this in such a way as to include sociology, politics, religion (of course), culture, war, alliances, and literature. No other author can claim such a comprehensive outlook on the situation as Hourani.
Next his analysis takes the same broad scope on the Ottoman age and discusses the last, great empire of the Arab world (although they are not Arab). He discusses how the Arab people responded to these outside rulers and finally how the Ottoman empire responded to the growing power of the European empires.
He goes on to discuss how the European empires controlled the Arab world, how they fought over the land and trade routes, and how the Arab world responded to this. He discusses how education was very much Europeanized (especially in the Magrib, or northern Africa, where Arab culture did not affect the culture as much from the beginning).
In the last part he discusses the age of nations and the conflicts which aroused from having been colonized (not in the sense you would think however, instead of purely blaming the colonizers he merely shows how this created great differences in the culture and political and religious ideals of the people).
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely detailed with major historical gaps Jan. 21 2004
Format:Paperback
What a tedious read!!! Where is the history of Suleyman The Great?! Did the crusades happen?! Did America ever do anything in Tripoli?! Do women exist in the modern Muslim world?!!!
While being extremely detailed about historical social practices and religious thought, Hourani left out key historical periods.
If you want to come to better understanding of Arab society, I am sure that you can find a more concise book that does not neglect / ignore key world events.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent survey March 2 2003
Format:Paperback
Albert Hourani provides an excellent survey of Arabic and Islamic history beginning with the onset of Islam during the early seventh century and ending at the 1980's, before the first Gulf War. In each epoch, Hourani not only covers the political history in question, but also social, philosophical and religious developments.
Although the book is entitled "A History of the Arab Peoples," it also covers a great deal of Persian and Turkish/Ottoman history. Despite the tremendous scope of time and space - over 1300 years and spanning from Spain to the East Indies - Hourani furnishes the reader with a solid view of the many currents that underlie modern Islam.
I hope that this book will help provide a more nuanced understanding of the Islamic and Arab world - a world that is often viewed as monolithic by the West. Aided perhaps by the survey nature of the text, the political bent of the book will be viewed as "balanced" by most non-partisan readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview July 1 2002
Format:Paperback
If you are looking to understand the basic outline of Arabic Muslim history and cultural development, this is the book for you. Hourani begins his history with the birth of Mohammed and brings up to the near-present. Filled with excellent map, photographs, and illustrations, lucid and concise writing, and astute analyses this book serves as a great introduction to Arabic Muslim history.
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